An investigation by Wardesk News Reporters has revealed alleged attempts by the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, to forcefully take over a large expanse of Southern Kaduna Land using the instrument of the state.
In a report made available to SaharaReporters on Wednesday, the investigators, Steven Kefas and George Makeri, said they began an enquiry into the issue after spotting a letter purportedly from the Kaduna Geographic Information Service (KADGIS), demanding that Comet Minerals and all other present occupants of the area should vacate the land.
The investigators said the letter claimed that the governor’s acquisition of the land was for the “Overriding Public Interest for mining purposes in Jema’a Local government Area of Kaduna state in favour of the state.”
Citing their findings and the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007, they said the government of Kaduna State has no business evicting persons from a mining site – especially not someone with a valid mining lease after following the due process of obtaining an exploration license following the necessary preconditions stipulated in the Act.
According to Kefas and Makeri, their findings showed the governor’s move followed increased attention given to nickel by the United States.
The report read: “To understand why the Government of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai is interested in this piece of land, we have to travel back a bit. According to Market Watch, between December 2013 and May 2014, nickel price went from $14,000 to $21,000 per metric ton. This is about a 50% increase within the space of three months. Before this dramatic price increase, nickel was not on the radar of US investors.
“After this increase, however, investors’ attention has been shifting to nickel. Nickel is the main material for the production of batteries in electric cars and energy storage from solar and wind power generation. With the drive by the world governments towards a pollution-free future, nickel appears to be that future.
“Companies like Comet Minerals took the challenge earlier in 2015 and by 2016, massive deposits of nickel were discovered in the embattled Southern Kaduna region within Jama’a Local Government Area. The deposits are very high grade and closer to the surface; Comet Minerals dubbed it ‘The Titan Nickel Project’. The nickel deposits spanning 20 km of the Comet Lease are over 90% pure and so close to the surface.
“This means comparatively low-cost mining for a surface operation. The Chairman of Comet Minerals, a former Western Mining Corporation CEO and Australian businessman, Hugh Morgan, was convinced the Titan project is a potentially world-class, game-changing nickel deposits believed to be the first of its kind in the world.
“This nickel discovery was made near three southern Kaduna communities of Bakin Kogi, Nindem and Dangoma. Governor El-Rufai was informed about the discovery and given the honour to break the news. The discovery was first made in Dangoma, the other two communities came later.
“When we got to the affected communities on the 24th of February 2021, we conducted some interviews – and from these interviews, we discovered that the move to acquire land under the auspices of KADGIS is very unpopular with the indigenous people.
“From the foregoing, we are convinced beyond reasonable doubt that Governor El-Rufai is trying to acquire the land in a bid to chase out Comet Minerals for the sole purpose of taking over the mining opportunities. And this takeover is not to benefit the host communities or the people of Kaduna State as a whole.
“We have reason to believe the above given that N1 billion was earmarked for the development of mining communities in the 2017 Kaduna state budget, yet nothing was done for the mining communities. This means the funds were either looted or misappropriated.”
The investigators alleged that to achieve his purpose, El-Rufai has continued to cook up lies to belittle the credibility of Comet Minerals.
The report added: “Our findings revealed that Comet Minerals alone has developed the technology for this kind of mining and the patent for such technology is still in force. How does El-Rufai intend to secure the technology from Comet Minerals?
“We can now safely conclude that the acquisition attempted by the Kaduna State Government is not done with the interest of the people at heart as the host communities, wherever we went, expressed shock and surprise to a move they may have perceived as erratic and irrational. It is expected of any government that it will make decisions with the interest of its people at heart. From what we have gathered, the Kaduna State Government under Mallam Nasir El-Rufai is bent on a collision path with the people.
“We believe that the Government of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai may resort to blatant abuse of power and shedding of more blood of the Southern Kaduna indigenous communities to forcefully acquire the lands of these indigenous people. This is because, from what we have gathered, there is no lawful means by which the lands could be acquired.
“If the government of Nasir El-Rufai is acting in the interest of the host communities and Kaduna State as a whole, they will not be on this collision path. Meanwhile, Wardesk News will continue to follow these issues closely and critically, until we get to the bottom of the matter.”